Is Depression Normal for a Teenager?

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Question:  Is depression normal for a teenager?

Answer:  Adolescence can be a difficult time for many teenagers and certainly it's normal for all of us to experience occasional moodiness or sadness.  However, depression is a very different thing from occasional mood swings or feeling blue.  It can linger for longer periods of time and cause feelings of intense unhappiness and even suicidal urges.  It is not in any way normal for a teenager to feel seriously depressed or fixated on thoughts of death or suicide.

Some of the possible signs of depression you might see in a teenager are:

  • Sadness
  • Irritability
  • Feeling like nothing matters
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Staying up too late and sleeping late in the morning
  • Either physical agitation or slowed movements
  • Self-criticism
  • Behavior problems
  • Sensitivity to rejection
  • Problems in school
  • Frequent complaints of pain, like headaches or stomach problems
  • Suicidal thoughts or actions

If these signs have been present for at least two weeks it is very important that your teen receives evaluation for possible depression.  Untreated depression in teens can lead to some very serious consequences, such as drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and even suicide, as the teen struggles to find ways to cope with his troubled feelings.

If your teenager is showing any signs of feeling suicidal, it is especially urgent that you take this seriously.

  Some of the common signs that your teenager might be feeling suicidal include:

  • Talking about committing suicide, even in a joking manner
  • Making such comments as "You'd be better off without me" or "I should just disappear and never come back."
  • Talking about death
  • Writing stories or poems about death or suicide
  • Behaving recklessly or having a lot of accidents
  • Giving away treasured possessions
  • Saying goodbye to friends or family like it's the last time they will see them
  • Acquiring things that could be used to kill themselves, such as a gun or pills

Some of the resources that are available to teenagers who need assistance with depressed or suicidal feelings include:

  • Suicide hotlines, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
  • A doctor, a mental health provider or any other health care professional
  • Family members, friends, teachers, school counselors and members of the clergy

If you feel that a teen is in immediate danger of hurting himself or attempting suicide, you should not leave him alone.  Contact 911 or other local emergency number or take him to your nearest emergency room for help.


MacDonald, Ann.  "Distinguishing depression from normal adolescent mood swings."  Harvard Health Publications.  Harvard Medical School.  Published:  September 13, 2010.  Accessed:  August 28, 2015.

Mayo Clinic Staff.  "Teen Depression."  Mayo Clinic.  Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.  Last updated:  November 7, 2012.  Accessed:  August 28, 2015.

Medlar, Frank.  "A Few Signs Your Teenager May Be Depressed."  Psych Central.  Psych Central.  Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 7, 2015.  Accessed:  August 28, 2015.

"Recognizing Teen Depression."  Medline Plus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  Last updated:  October 31, 2014.  Accessed:  August 28, 2015.

Shaw, Gina.  "Teen Depression:  What to Know."  WebMD.  WebMD, LLC.  Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD.  Accessed:  August 28, 2015.

Smith, Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D.  "Parent's Guide to Teen Depression."  Last updated;  August 2015.  Accessed:  August 28, 2015.

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